One of the most cost-effective marketing strategies involves using your current customers to spread the word about your brand.
It’s not always easy for them to do. Between their hectic work schedules and never-ending list of social and family obligations, your marketing strategy is the last thing on their minds.
So you gotta put it on their minds and make the referral process as easy as possible for them, turning your loyal customers into your biggest brand advocates. You do this with killer referral incentives, like free products and major discounts.
This makes it a win-win situation for everyone involved.
But sometimes an incentive isn’t enough. An effective rewards program is done with tact and strategy.
Rather than reinventing the wheel to come up with your own referral marketing ideas, though, it makes sense to look to other brands who are absolutely killing referral programs.
So I bring to you an epic list of the best (and most effective) referral program ideas currently on the market, along with recommendations on what kinds of referral program software to use, incentives to offer, and current customers to target for your very own rewards program.
By the end of reading this, you will have enough referral program ideas to launch your very own program and open the floodgates of another customer acquisition channel for your business.
Before we begin, let’s break down some basic referral marketing terminology so that we know that we’re all on the same page.
What is a referral program?
A referral program is a deliberate, systematic way of getting people to make referrals to your business. It’s often called word-of-mouth marketing because, well, it rewards existing customers for sending new customers to shop with your brand.
These rewards usually come by way of referral incentives, such as major discounts, free cash, or access to an app or program that would otherwise be paid. While there is an upfront cost to the business to cover the cost of the reward, it significantly increases long-term revenue by making loyal customers out of your existing customer base.
Why do I need a referral program?
One of the biggest stresses of any business is finding a solid customer acquisition channel, or basically, bringing in new customers. When you have a solid referral marketing program, however, you let your existing customers bring new buyers to your brand. This not only significantly reduces spending on bringing new customers to your shop, but it also increases customer retention, which is a very good thing.
Because loyal customers have a higher conversion rate than new customers and spend more per transaction, making customer referral programs the most cost-effective AND lucrative marketing strategy that your business can possibly employ.
How does a referral program work?
People don’t make as many referrals as they intend to for a variety of reasons. A referral program helps make their mind up with a tangible reward for referrals.
Modern referral programs, or a refer-a-friend-program, uses software to track referrals made by happy customers through either a referral code, a rewards card, or a referral link. Depending on the referral campaign, customers will usually receive some kind of referral bonus or benefit when they refer a friend. Referral marketing software automates the payout of these referral rewards.
This referral process creates a natural word-of-mouth marketing experience for your brand, which ultimately increases both your customer retention rate and your revenue.
How do I create a referral program?
The best way to bring in potential customers is to first focus on your existing satisfied customers. Rather than just offering cash rewards or free gifts in hopes that your customers will refer a friend to your shop, it takes a little bit of planning to set up a referral program that works.
1. Get Clear About Your Goals
Before creating a complex ambassador program or launching tons of marketing campaigns (of any kind), it’s important to be clear about what your goals are for the program. This will help guide you as you brainstorm referral marketing ideas. Some questions to consider are:
- What are you hoping to get out of your rewards program?
- Do you want more customers? Or just bigger purchases by your existing customers?
- Are you trying to get a higher conversion rate and increase sales?
You can certainly achieve each of these goals, but it might require a different referral campaign for each goal. So it’s important to be clear about your goals before beginning.
2. Make a Life of Your Existing Customer Referral Sources
Your referral sources are your happy customers, friends and family. They are your biggest advocates and will be the lifeblood of your referral marketing program. Make a list of all of these groups and how you can easily contact them.
3. Make an Outreach Plan
Now that you have a list of referral sources, carefully make an outreach plan. It’s not quite as simple as sending a blast email with a generic referral incentive. Instead, research the best practices for reaching out to each type of referral.
Newer customers, for example, shouldn’t receive emails about your reward program right after their first purchase. And close friends and family may not need an incentive at all! The types of referral programs that you use will largely depend on your list, so plan accordingly.
4. Determine The Referral Incentives You’ll Offer
While cash incentives likely seem like they’ll get the biggest draw out of your existing customer base, that’s not necessarily the case. One study found that non-cash incentives were 24 percent more effective with referral marketing than cash incentives. It’s best to offer something of tremendous value to your customers that will keep them coming back to your shop in the future.
5. Tell Your Customers About It
Once you’ve settled on your referral lists and your incentives, it’s time to get people to spread the word both about your brand and your rewards! There are many different ways to do this, each of which brings in a different segment of potential customers.
You could add details about your referral program in your newsletters, have opt-ins on your website, or capture customers through a pop-up right on your homepage. Do a little research about the most effective way to grow your lists and then test it out for yourself.
6. Track The Referrals And Rewards
In order to run a successful rewards program, you need to keep track of all of the referrals being made. You need to be able to keep track of who referred whom, the date they were referred, whether or not a conversion was made, and the best way to follow-up with both the referrer and the referee.
One of the easiest ways to do this is with referral program software, like ReferralCandy, that can do this for you. A system that not only facilitates the reward within your shop but also provides accurate data on the referrals is going to help you know exactly how successful (or unsuccessful) your program is.
(NOTE: If you’d like to set up your own referral program, you can check out ReferralCandy. ReferralCandy makes it easy for any ecommerce store to have their own referral programs.)
What are the best referral programs?
Here is a quick and dirty list that will show you all of the most awe-inspiring referral programs that work. Some of these programs offered free money and others offered subscriptions to their services. Take a look at the most popular successful referral programs to see if any of them spark ideas for your business.
- PayPal. They literally gave away free money, and it worked out great for them. And this was before social media!
- Dropbox. Modeled after PayPal, Dropbox’s referral program got 4 million users in 15 months.
- Airbnb. A single user in China led to thousands of signups and hundreds of bookings in a single month.
- Uber. They’ve been in a unique position to run multiple referral programs at once – for both users and for drivers.
- Tesla. $1,000 for both advocate and friend, with quite a star-studded list of advocates!
- Amazon Prime. Likely one of the most heavily-used referral programs in recent times.
- Google. When the front page of the Internet decides to run a referral program, it’s worth looking into.
- Evernote. Their referral program relies on a point system.
- Riff Raff & Co. From a simple home business, Riff Raff grew to a million-dollar business with word-of-Mum
Thinking of putting together a customer referral program, and need some ideas or inspiration?
Here’s a list of 80 referral program examples for businesses of all types.
What industries make use of referral programs?
Click on the following links to jump to your relevant topic:
- A. Most Successful Referral Program Examples – Famously successful ones, such as Dropbox, Airbnb and Uber
- B. Ecommerce Referral Program Examples – Huge category, split into the following subcategories:
- B1. Fashion Referral Program Examples – Including everything from flash discount sites to watches and designer sneakers
- B2. Health & Beauty Referral Program Examples – We’re looking at subscription boxes (makeup, skincare), beardcare products, speciality razors
- B3. Electronics & Gadgets Referral Program Examples – Cutting-edge hardware, including smart luggage, phone cases
- B4. Food & Beverage Referral Program Examples – Food delivery, detox tea packages, nootropic powders
- B5. E-cigarettes and Vaporizers Referral Program Examples – E-cigarettes and vaporizers
- B6. Home & Pets Referral Program Examples – Mattresses, beddings, furniture and pet supplies
- B7. Education & Training Referral Program Examples – engineering toys, educational boxes and bar exam flashcards
- C. Other Referral Program Examples
- D. Referral marketing Resource List – Links to other relevant posts about referral programs – how to set up referral incentives, how to do messaging and so on.
A. Most Successful Referral Program Examples
Dropbox’s famous referral program gives you and your friends 500MB of additional free storage space, up to 16GB total.
Dropbox’s refer-a-friend feature permanently increased their signups by a whopping 60%, with users sending upwards of 2.8 million direct referral invites in a single month by April 2010.
They completely flipped their marketing strategy on its head, swapping the ad spend of about $288 to $388 per customer (for a $99 per year subscription fee) to $0 per customer, thanks to the killer referral marketing campaign.
Instead, they simply offered extra storage space on top of their standard product.
Needless to say, the strategy worked. Now, they are one of the leading services for cloud-based storage with over 500 million users.
Dropbox’s referral program results:
- Permanently increased sign-ups by 60%
- Got 4 million new users within 15 months
- 35% of daily sign-ups are via the referral program
Key Takeaway: Offer an integral part of your product or subscription for free so that users have nothing to lose when they sign up. Once they use your service, they will realize they love it and stay on board as loyal customers.
PayPal’s refer-a-friend program literally gave users (and their friends) free cash, allowing users to get used to using their core product for free.
PayPal’s refer-a-friend program is one of the most lucrative referral program examples that helped them achieve 7 to 10% daily growth, catapulting their user base to over 100 million members.
According to David Sacks, original COO of Paypal, Paypal used to literally pay people to invite their friends.
It turned out to yield better marketing ROI than traditional marketing channels.
Once they achieved a critical mass of early adopters, they dropped the Refer-A-Friend bonus, but they kept it for Merchants. Then they dropped the Merchant bonus once they reached their target numbers.
PayPal’s referral program results:
- An average of 7 to 10 percent daily growth once the refer-a-friend program was launched
- Acquired over 100 million users on the platform within 2 years of launching
- Gained 400 million users within a few months in 2000 as a direct result of their referral program
Key Takeaway: Free cash only works if you have the money to spend and if cash is an inherent part of your product or service, such as with the online banking giant PayPal.
Airbnb’s unique referral program took the whole ‘social proof’ concept to the next level.
According to a Nielson study, 84 percent of people will trust a recommendation made by friends or family (or even acquaintances). Knowing this, Airbnb doubled-down on a way to get their happy customers to recommend their booking platform to their family and friends.
At first, they simply left the work up to their customers by offering a referral reward for spreading the news. Then they left it alone, letting the news spread organically.
That is until they realized that their referral program was responsible for millions of dollars in revenue.
When they realized this, they decided to devote their time and energy to a referral program that actively sought out referrals.
They created a first-of-its-kind email opt-in referral marketing campaign, where users could connect with their existing contacts by sending them an invite to use Airbnb. That’s not all, though.
Airbnb made a specialized API that read contact internet behavior to determine which of the contacts were most likely to need a service like Airbnb and then recommended sending referrals to those contacts only.
While this is a little creepy, it proved to be incredibly successful. Then they tested the heck out of the copy, making sure that each part of the referral email was indeed the most successful version of itself.
Airbnb’s Referral program results:
- 300 percent increase in referral bookings
- Referrals booked more reservations than non-referrals
- Referrals were more likely to become hosts more
- Referrals even sent more referral invites to their friends and family
Key Takeaway: Take the time to evaluate your referral program through A/B testing and understanding your customer base. The better your program, the higher the conversion rate.
Uber’s referral program lets you give your friends the gift of discounted first rides, solving the problem of finding cheap and convenient transportation for millions of people around the world.
Uber in and of itself solved a major problem of this millennium: they provided affordable and convenient transportation to anyone who had a smartphone. All they had to do was help people discover their service.
They did this by offering major discounts toward future rides to new users. They also offered cash bonuses to driver referrals.
This unique referral program brought in fresh customers on both ends, filling out their entire business model within a matter of months.
Key Takeaway: Design a referral program that not only brings you new customers but also lifts your entire business structure.
Evernote’s referral program gives your friends Premium– and you get points that you can use towards Premium or increased monthly uploads
Evernote has a dual-sided referral incentive program that gives people additional space and/or Premium membership.
What we love about this is the clarity of what constitutes a referral — your friend has to sign in, not just sign up.
This not only gets more users to their platform but also gets them used to using the product.
Key Takeaway: Your referrals will only stick around if they know how good your service is, so make sure they are using it right away.
6. Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime’s referral program is surprisingly successful, given that they didn’t actually offer all that much.
So how did it work, then?
They made clear class-to-action every step of the way, quietly guiding customers to their Prime membership and making it seem like a natural next step.
Though they only offered $5 toward the referrer, this was enough to entice users to spread the word.
As a growth opportunity, this was the way to go. Amazon knew that they needed to grow their Prime membership because those were their more lucrative demographic, spending twice as much as non-Prime members and ordering more times per year.
Key Takeaway: If your main goal for your referral program is growth and increased sales, then be sure to design a program that supports exactly that.
Want to try a referral program for yourself? Try ReferralCandy today!
B. Ecommerce Referral Program Examples
When it comes to the ecommerce industry, there are countless subcategories your shop might fall into. Luckily, there are tons of shops that are already killing it with referral programs that you can happily and easily emulate in your own shop.
B1. Fashion & Apparel Referral Program Examples
7. Flash Sales
Amuze’s referral program gives you and your friends $25 off your next flash sale purchase.
Amuze is a members-only fashion portal that gives discounts on authentic designer labels. While $25 may not seem like a lot, considering that Amuze is selling luxury items, their flash sales and daily discounts allow the $25 to have a noticeable impact. Their insane discounts are part of their selling point and their referral program helps to drive the prices down further, gaining more customers in the process.
8. Adventure Gear
The Clymb sells sporting and adventure gear and gives credit to anyone who refers their friends when they make a purchase.
Not only that, but they offer the same credit amount to the friends too.
You only get the credit with a $50 minimum purchase. Since adventure gear is notoriously expensive, often dubbed as a middle and upper-class luxury, any credit towards purchase is going to be welcomed.
And making that $50 minimum won’t be hard to do.
This referral reward structure entices new customers to make a purchase, convinces existing customers to make another purchase, and gets $100 worth of sales through the brand’s virtual doors. Genius.
Key Takeaway: Pay attention to your industry and what customers complain about the most (high prices). See if you can solve their problems within your referral program while also turning a profit.
9. Accessories & Stationery
Erin Condren’s referral program gives away $10 credit to friends and advocates, making an easy referral program that increases sales.
Erin Condren sells clutches, t-shirts, notebooks, papers, stickers and all sorts of fashionable accessories. Her referral program works because it’s heavily focused on giving her customers a great experience without getting too complicated.
Key Takeaway: Your referral program doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. If a simple refer-a-friend credit works for you, then go with it!
True&Co’s referral program has strong visual images and a simple commitment-free referral program.
True&Co is an online lingerie store that uses a special algorithm to figure out a lady’s bra size, and then recommend lingerie that cater to their personal sizes. They even provide a home-fitting service, so that totally eliminates the trip to the dressing room.
They stay true to their brand experience by making their referral program just as easy.
In order to get the reward, all you have to do is enter your email and the email of the friend that you want to refer.
You don’t need to sign up for a program and you don’t have to worry about receiving any promotional emails after that. Just a simple exchange and thanks for spreading the word about this convenient service.
Key Takeaway: If your referral rewards are easy to share, then it will be easy to be successful.
11. Wool Products
WoolOvers’s referral program is pretty generous, offering referred friends 20% off their purchase and advocates £50 off if their friends make a purchase.
This strategy is super effective because everybody wins when a conversion is made. Rather than giving discounts to their advocates simply because they sent a referral email, they tie the reward to the outcome, which is a purchase.
This prevents the brand from wasting cash on empty referrals and gets the advocates in the habit of following up on their friend’s purchases.
Key Takeaway: If you can tie the reward into your desired outcome (a purchase), then your referral program will be a lot more cost-efficient.
12. Designer Sneakers
GREATS feature their referral program on every page, including their about page, making it super easy to find and join.
Greats is a Brooklyn-based brand that sells designer sneakers at an affordable price. They give both Advocates and Friends $10 off their next order.
Why does their referral program work so well? According to Ryan, CEO of Greats, it’s because they deeply understand their customers and they know that they are trendy, tech-savvy millennials who are willing to share discounts in a matter of a few thumb-taps.
So they made a referral program that works with that.
Key Takeaway: Understand who your customer base is and provide them with a program that works especially for them.
13. Watches & Accessories
DapperTime’s referral program gives you 20% (in cash) of what your friends order, giving a huge incentive to your advocates to follow through on the purchase.
DapperTime has a very loyal (and stylish) following on Instagram, which pretty much guaranteed the inevitable success of their referral program. Its referral program is also pretty interesting, functioning more like an affiliate program than a referral program.
And you can do the same for your store too.
Key Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to make your referral program like a mini affiliate program where everyone wins with their purchases.
Leonisa’s referral program gives Advocates $15 off and Friends 15% off
Leonisa, the number 1 lingerie brand in Latin America, sells beautifully crafted and technologically advanced shapewear and lingerie, as well as sportswear.
Because they often do not have very “aggressive” offers or sales, they see these discounts as the ‘last motivation’ to make purchases.
Because they want people to fall in love with their brand, the quality of their products, and the convenience of the purchasing process.
The referral rewards are more just like a gentle push along the purchase funnel.
Key Takeaway: Don’t get too distracted by special deals and offers if your products are worth sharing about on their own. In this case, simplicity works just fine.
15. Sandals & Footwear
Okabashi’s referral program has Referred Friends spending 13.2% more on average!
Okabashi is the largest manufacturer of sandals and flip flops in the United States. The key to their referral program success? A great product that their customers love.
Key Takeaway: Offer quality products and customer service so that customers don’t feel like they’re being bribed to spread the word about your brand. They’ll want to do it naturally.
16. Student Discounts
Perkla’s referral program gives students 20% off on various aggregated fashion products.
Perkla was a startup that provided a one-stop online shopping platform exclusively for students. Students who signed up were able to enjoy discounts from an array of online stores, including Bonobo, Converse, Reebok and Apple. Exclusivity reigns supreme at this startup here — only students can sign up to use them.
(NOTE: Perkla has been acquired by ID.me)
Key Takeaway: Exclusivity helped make this referral program go viral.
17. Designer Dress Shoes
Beckett Simonon’s referral program gives $25 credit to both Advocate and Friend.
Beckett Simonon is an ecommerce shop that sells made-to-order shoes, bags and accessories. It reduces inventory costs by asking customers to pre-order goods before it is made.
Sesura’s referral program gives discounts and coupons to encourage shoppers to buy more.
Sesura is an online destination for Asian fast fashion. Their products are sourced all over Asia, e.g Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan — and are available at an affordable price.
19. Ballet Flats
Rothy’s referral program gives $20 to both friends and advocates.
Rothy’s is an online store that combines the ease of a sneaker and the polish of a feminine flat to create a unique ballet flat.
They make the purchasing process fun by offering a hefty $20 to both the referrer and the new customer.
Key Takeaway: Offer a notable discount when the referred customer makes a purchase to incentivize the referral.
YogaClub’s referral program gives both friends and advocates 25% off.
YogaClub is a monthly yoga subscription box that allows customers to discover new yoga brands on the cheap. By offering 25% off the subscription service, it allows customers to get used to receiving goods in the mail without having to commit to a major purchase.
Key Takeaway: If you have a subscription-based service, then offer a major discount for referrals so that customers get hooked to your service.
B2. Beauty & Grooming Referral Program Examples
21. Shaving Razors: Dorco USA’s Referral Program gives Friends $5 off while Advocates get 5% of their friends’ purchase
Famous for being the blades used by Dollar Shave Club, Dorco sells great razor blades at an affordable price. With 20% discounts, referred friends would be more motivated to get something from Dorco USA, especially since their products are already very affordable.
22. Specialty Razors: Bevel’s Referral Program gives Friends and Advocates a free month each for every successful referral
Bevel sells shaving products designed specifically for people with curly hair, coarse skin and so on. For a subscription service like Bevel, it’s smart to give a discount rather than a cash reward to the Advocate– it encourages repeat purchases.
23. Monthly Beauty Subscription Boxes: Julep’s Referral Program gives both Advocate and Friend $15 credit
Julep is an ecommerce store that sells makeup and cosmetics, while simultaneously offering a monthly subscription box. We think Julep’s referral program works super well because of great copy, for e.g “for every bestie that joins.”
24. Cosmetics: Dermstore’s referral program gives $10 credit to both Friend and Advocate
Dermstore is an online store that carries products recommended by dermatologists. Its simple referral program offers $10 every time a friend makes a purchase.
25. Adore Beauty gives both Friends and Advocates $10 off
Adore Beauty is Australia’s longest-running online beauty store, and an official stockist of over 165 leading global beauty brands.
(Pro-Tip: Adore Beauty uses ReferralCandy to power its referral program!)
26. Thrive Causemetics gives $10 off their products for both Friends and Advocates + donates to a woman in need
Thrive Causemetics was founded by Karissa Bodnar who lost her close friend Kristy to cancer at just 24 years old. For every product purchased, they donate one to empower a woman thriving through cancer or domestic violence.
(Pro-Tip: Thrive Causemetics uses ReferralCandy to power its referral program!)
27. High-Tech Beauty: JeNu’s referral program gives $20 off for Friends and $50 off for Advocates
JeNu is an infuser uses ultrasonic energy to make skin care brands work better and faster.
28. Dental Products: Oxyfresh’s referral program gives Friends 10% and Advocates $10 off orders above $50
Oxyfresh sells safe, effective and gentle products for the home, body care and pet care that uses their patented advanced technology ingredient, Oxygene.
29. Brazilian Wax: Strip’s Refer-a-Friend program gives 50% off for Friends and redeemable credits for Advocates
Strip offers quality waxing services and advanced techniques when it comes to pre- and post-wax care with products.
B3. Electronic & Gadget Referral Program Examples
30. Smart Kitchen Robot: Mellow’s referral program– tell your friends about a super-cool smart sous vide machine
Mellow sells a really cool smart kitchen robot that can cook sous vide for you while you’re not even at home.
We wrote a blogpost about Mellow’s success here:
How Mellow Made $200,000 In Preorder Sales In Less Than A Month
31. Bluesmart’s Referral Program – Give $40, get $40 when buying smart luggage
Bluesmart sells smart luggage that you can control from your smartphone. It famously raised $2.2 million dollars on Indiegogo when it first launched.
(Pro-Tip: BlueSmart uses ReferralCandy to power its tremendously successful referral program!)
32. Wearables: Pavlok’s referral program – Advocates get 15% of friend’s purchase in cash
Pavlok is a wearable device that helps you change your habits. (Pavlok is one of Shopify’s Build-a-Business winners in 2015.) Why does it work so well?
Pavlok has a long blog post that teaches advocates effective sharing techniques, so they can get the most out of the referral program.
33. Futuristic luggage: Trunkster’s referral program gives $20 cash to Advocates, and $20 off to Referred Friends
Trunkster makes intelligent, sleek and unique suitcases that uses a revolutionary sliding door mechanism instead of traditional zippers. Trunkster, like Pavlok, is one of Shopify Build-a-Business winners in 2015.
This is what Trunkster founder Bryan says about his referral program:
“Cash speaks well to people – we want people to be rewarded for sharing and to be able to get 30 dollars is the biggest incentive we can give to someone for sharing.”
34. Hardy phone cases: Rhino Shield’s referral program – gives Advocates 15% off their next purchase when they successfully refer 3 friends
Are you a clumsy person with a history of dropping and damaging your precious tech devices? Do you know somebody who is? Then EvolutiveLabs’ Rhino Shield is just for you. Klutzes know klutzes, so Rhino Shield is served well by a referral program.
35. Super Thin iPhone Cases: Peel’s referral program gives Advocates 30% off all products, and Referred Friends 20% off
Peel is the iPhone case that’s so thin, you’d probably not notice it.
Giving out discounts work well for products that customers will likely purchase again. Since Peel also makes cases for the iPad Air and iPad Mini, customers who fall in love with their first purchases might decide to outfit their other Apple products with Peel cases too.
Apart from discounts, giving out credits is also a good solution for ensuring future purchases.
36. Ztylus’s Referral Program – phone cases designed specifically to improve your camera experience
Ztylus sells incredibly versatile smartphone cases. While there are all sorts of phone cases available in the market today, Ztylus differentiates itself by selling cases that perform several different functions all at once.
37. Saleae Logic Analyzers Referral Program has an incredibly stylish referral email template
We especially love the imagery of the envelope– it makes hitting the Submit button just a little bit more exciting.
38. WiFi: Skyroam’s referral program gives $20 off for both Advocates and Friends
Skyroam developed and patented the virtual SIM technology in 2008 and enabled mobile data on-demand worldwide through local connectivity.
(Pro-Tip: SkyRoam uses ReferralCandy to power its tremendously successful referral program!)
39. Light: LIFX’s referral program gives 15% off all products
LIFX pioneered the smart light in 2012 with the first Wi Fi-enabled, multi-coloured LED that’s controllable via a smart device. Designed to last over 22 years, LIFX offers the brightest, most flexible smart light for your home or office.
40. Headphones: Sol Republic’s referral program gives both Friends and Advocates 15% off
Sol Republic is a global consumer electronics company dedicated to enhancing people’s lives through better-sounding headphones and accessories.
B4. F&B and Supplements Referral Program Examples
41. Meal Delivery: 22 Days Nutrition’s referral program gives Advocates 15% off their Friends’ purchase in cash, and gives friends 10% off
22 Days Nutrition notes that word-of-mouth is a key part of their business, so adding a refer-a-friend program to their customer acquisition plans was a natural fit. People were already talking about their brand and referring their friends to 22 Days Nutrition.
42. Kitchensurfing’s in-house referral program has multi-tiered rewards
(NOTE: Kitchensurfing has since shut down.)
43. Munchery’s referral program allows you to give and get $20 of credit for every referral you make.
Munchery is the food delivery app that makes it easy to eat without compromise, delivering delicious, all-natural, chef-crafted dishes right to your door. By giving away $20 for every referral, it covers 1 meal for the advocate’s friend — who can then be converted into a paying customer based on the deliciousness of the food.
44. TeaGlad’s referral program gives Advocates $10 cash and Friends 20% off their purchase of cleansing detox tea
Teaglad is a tea company that sells both tea and detox tea. Its main mission is to make finding high-quality tea easy.
45. Nootropics: Powder City’s referral program gives Friends 10% off and Advocates a 6% cash bonus
Powder City is an ecommerce store for health supplements. They sell all sorts of supplements, with categories including “Nootropics”, “Energy”, “Relaxation”, “Pre-workout” and more.
By using customer referrals, it allows Powder City to build credibility with potential customers– we’re far likelier to try something if a trusted friend says they’re satisfied with the experience.
(NOTE: Powder City has since closed.)
46. Fresh Meals: Youfoodz’s referral program gives away free meals
Youfoodz is an Australia fresh meal delivery service. Great copy on their referral program, emphasizing the world free – and a free meal is relatively cheap compared to the cost of acquiring a new customer.
Our friend Kevin Indig covered how YouFoodz thrived against competition in a fresh study here:
YouFoodz Growth Study: How To Grow +3,846% Over 14 months In a Competitive Market
(Pro-Tip: YouFoodz uses ReferralCandy to power its tremendously successful referral program!)
47. Coffee: Craft Coffee’s referral program gives away free coffee delivery for Friends
Craft Coffee is a coffee subscription box that makes it easy to find good coffee at fair prices.
48. Spice Blends: Jaswant’s Kitchen’s referral program gives 10% off for Friends and Free Shipping for Advocates
Jaswant’s Kitchen is an online store that makes authentic Indian cooking easy.
49. Pretzels: Fatty Sundays’ referral program gives Advocates 20% off and Friends 15%
Fatty Sundays is an online store that sells gourmet chocolate covered pretzels.
50. Primal Food: Barefoot Provisions’ referral program gives Friends 10% off and Advocates a $5 coupon
Barefoot Provisions is the online store for paleo and primal foodstuffs, curated for the conscious foodie.
B5. E-cigarettes and Vaporizers Referral Program Examples
51. VaporDNA’s referral program gives both friends and advocates $10 off if they spend over $35 storewide
VaporDNA is the absolute premier online vape store offering an industry leading selection of electronic cigarettes, e-liquids, and accessories. They are the only vape company to earn the circle of excellence award from BizRate in 2016, a distinction earned by retailers who go above and beyond the norm to provide exceptional service to their online customers.
52. eJuices.com’s referral program gives Friends 15% their first purchase and payment in cash for Advocates
eJuices.com is the world’s largest eLiquid retailer offering over 1400+ brands and 50,000 product. Its parent company, eCig Distributors, also offers wholesale, distribution, advertising and website solutions for the eLiquid industry.
Read what founder Billy Wilson has to say about telling stories and referral marketing here:
How eJuices Grew From 0 to Several Million Dollars in Sales
(Pro-Tip: eJuices uses ReferralCandy to power its tremendously successful referral program!)
53. Grenco Science’s referral program gives Friends 15% off and Advocates 20%
Grenco Science is the first vape company to market a tank system specifically designed for essential fluids and personal aromatherapy regimens. To continually give back to the community, Grenco Science established the Charity Series, a collection of products tied to nonprofit organizations wherein a portion of net proceeds are donated with each purchase; and the Artist Series, an installment of collaborations with industry leading artists and brand ambassadors.
(Pro-Tip: Grenco Science uses ReferralCandy to power its tremendously successful referral program!)
B6. Home and Pets Referral Program Examples
54. Mattresses: Leesa’s referral program gives friends $75 off a mattress and advocates $50 in cash
Leesa is a mattress company whose mission is to help people sleep better. Leesa also has a “giving back” program where they donate 1 mattress for every ten sold.
55. Furniture: Made.com’s referral program gives Advocates and Friends £15 off
Made.com is an online furniture retailer based in the UK.
They’re focused on selling original furniture designs at affordable prices, which they accomplish by cutting out the middlemen from the process and connecting consumers directly to designers. The most interesting part about Made.com’s referral program is that they gamified it with incentives.
56. Pets: Pet Mountain’s referral program gives both Friends and Advocates 10% off when order is above $25
Pet Mountain is the online leader in discount pet supplies, aquariums, wholesale dog supplies and so on.
57. Sheets & Towels: Canningvale’s referral program gives Friends 20% off and gives Advocates store credits
Canningvale is an online store that provides premium bathroom textiles, luxury bedding and beach towels at affordable prices.
58. Sit-Stand Desks: Flexispot’s referral program offers Advocates 10% of their Friend’s purchase amount
Flexispot offers height adjustable desks and desktop workstations, providing easy transition between sitting and standing.
B7. Education and Toys Referral Program Examples
59. Toys: GoldieBlox’s referral program has advocates sharing for a cause– 20% off the next purchase for both advocate and friend.
GoldieBlox sells toys designed to teach girls engineering skills, and to get them engaged in building and learning. Very strong branding.
60. Flashcards: CriticalPass’s referral program gives you $10 for each friend referred
CriticalPass sells bar exam flashcards that will help law students pass the bar exam, written with key MBE concepts & elements to help them memorize for the MBE.
(Pro-Tip: CriticalPass uses ReferralCandy to power its tremendously successful referral program!)
61. Educational Activity Box: Flintobox gives away free Flintoboxes for successful referrals
Flintobox is an India-based company that produces educational activity boxes for children. Based on a theme, the company makes resources for Early Child Development on a monthly basis.
C. Other Referral Program Examples
C1. Software and Digital Goods Referral Program Examples
62. Business Management Software: Booker’s referral program gets business owners referring each other – (an iPad mini for the first referral!)
63. Crowdfunding: Seedr’s referral program brings all the crowdfunders to the yard, giving Advocates a cut of Seedr’s earnings from Referred Friends
Investors refer other investors all the time already– so a referral program makes perfect sense for Seedrs.
64. Cloud: Carpathia’s referral program gets businesses into the cloud
Very suave, with very polished design.
65. Graphic Design: 99Designs’s referral program gives Friends a $99 PowerPack for boosting and a $50 in cash for successful project completion
99designs is the world’s largest online graphic design marketplace. They connect freelance designers with creative people, genius entrepreneurs and savvy businesses.
66. Project Management: Trello gives a free month of Trello Gold for every person recommended to join
Trello is a web-based project management app that makes project collaboration simple and enjoyable.
67. Stock Photos & Videos: Videoblocks’ referral program gives Advocates $20 off and referred friends a staggering 90% off
VideoBlocks is a subscription site that provides studio quality, affordable stock footage, motion backgrounds, and even After Effects templates. Unlike other stock footage or stock video sites that charge per download, VideoBlocks members enjoy unlimited downloads for a monthly/yearly subscription fee.
The interesting thing about their referral program is that they only allow members to refer.. Most of paying customers are professionals in the media design field. By only allowing members to refer, it reduces the total amount of referrals, but ensures that they are mostly high quality referrals made by professionals.
C2. Service Referral Program Examples
68. Sunworks’ referral program offers $1,000 for each friend referred.
It’s a new, emerging industry, so they went all out in their efforts to educate their potential customers. Previously, they rewarded advocates for throwing parties, and even give away chances to win free a free Tesla Model S!
They have since changed their referral program to a simpler one – offering a $1000 bonus.
69. AirPartner’s referral program made you a #thousandaire – free 30 mins of flight time for Advocates and Friends
You never know when you’re going to need to charter a private jet!
70. Travel: Go-Today’s referral program gives Friends $25 off and Advocates 5%.
Go-today is a travel provider offering vacation packages and customized itineraries.
71. Bookings: ZEN Rooms’s referral programs gives both Friends and Advocates a US$20 discount
ZEN Rooms is the leading budget hotel chain in Southeast Asia with over 5000+ rooms across 35+ destinations. They provide value-for-money accommodation by guaranteeing all the key essentials at the lowest rates.
C3. Other Referral Program Examples For Inspiration
72. Lunatik’s referral program is significantly more involved than most
Lunatik’s referral program is a little more “involved” than most. It’s more accurately described as an “ambassador” program, looking for greater commitment from its participants, with a greater payoff.
This sort of system works better with more “intense” brands that would-be ambassadors enjoy being associated with.
73. MMORPGs: World of Warcraft’s referral program rewards you with exclusive in-game items
Interesting use of language. You RECRUIT a friend. Great way to match the “clan” and “team” language within the product. You’ll get free game time when a friend signs up, which is pretty lucrative. The reward is saving money.
74. FantasyDraft’s referral program is uniquely multi-tiered (with up to 6 degrees!)
FantasyDraft has a rather unique setup– they actually reward advocates for the referrals that their referred friends make, and the referrals that THOSE people make… up to 6 tiers! This would be overkill in many industries, but it makes perfect sense in a Fantasy Game setting, where friends-of-friends greatly enrich the experience.
We’ve written more extensively about FantasyDraft’s referral program here:
Referral Programs in Gaming: FantasyDraft’s Multi-Tiered Referral Program
75. Cashkaro’s Lifetime 10% cashback referral reward!
Cashkaro is a coupons and cashback site, riding on the wave of eCommerce shoppers looking for a bargain. Cashback websites refers shoppers to sites like Flipkart, Amazon and Expedia, and offer them a percentage of their purchase as cash after the purchase.
Unlike other referral programs, however, Cashkaro doesn’t offer a flat cash reward or a one-off discount; if you refer a friend to sign up, you receive 10% of their lifetime referral value.
This is excellent encouragement to sign up new Cashkaro users and encourage them to spend more, making it a referral program that pays off over time as well.
76. EVE Online offers you scaling rewards when you recruit a friend
EVE Online is a spaced-based MMORPG with complex social systems and a fervent fan community. One of the longest-running and most complex MMO games, much of the gameplay emerges from the interactions between the players and the investment of time (and subscription fees) by the players.
Therefore, they’ve offered an interesting twist on their referral rewards. New players receive a skill bonus (equivalent to 1-2 weeks of in-game time), which helps them get into the game.
The referrers, however, receive scaling rewards when the Recruitee reaches milestones:
- Sped up time when the Recruitee makes a purchase;
- In-game currency when the Recruitee upgrades to a paid subscription
- 1 month of subscription for bringing in 5 Recruitees (and different rewards at 2, 10, 20 and 40 Recruitees)
Rather than offering direct cash or cash-equivalent for referrals, EVE Online offers in-game items and the equivalent of time, which is more valued for players.
77. GetResponse Offers Digital Marketing Certification for Referrals
Billing itself as an all-in-one marketing platform, GetResponse offers software solutions for email marketing, landing pages, webinars and marketing automation.
With their target market of digital marketers, they’ve done something very interesting — offered a free digital marketing course (and certification) as part of their rewards structure:
- For each referred purchase, both advocate and new customer receive $30 in value
- At 3 referrals, the advocate receives a digital marketing certification (and course) worth about $200 USD
A digital marketing certificate can burnish the career-minded marketer’s resume, which might be worth more than simple cash value. Plus, it doesn’t cost GetResponse more to grant access to their courses – and means the marketer is more likely to make use of GetResponse products.
78. Riff Raff & Co Offered Their Sleep Toy, Entirely for Free
Like many other brands on this list, Riff Raff & Co were looking for a way to increase sales of their popular sleeping toys for babies, and decided to employ a referral program for Word of Mum – err, word of mouth marketing.
What was unique about how they chose referral program incentives was the way they offered rewards to advocates, that is, existing customers. New customers received free shipping, but advocates wouldn’t receive anything – not until they hit five successful referrals. Then they got a whole brand-new sleep toy, entirely free. Even non-customers could win a free toy if they completed the five referrals.
Note the five different designs showcased – gotta snuggle them all.
Riff Raff demonstrated a great understanding of their customers as parents of young children. Toddlers can always use more toys, especially if they help the babies (and parents) sleep better. Plus, laundry day, child care and so on, all in their excellent offer email. A deep understanding of their customers and effective catering to them – no wonder they reached six figure sales easily.
79. Designhill Offers 30% Commission As Referral Reward
Designhill is a platform for businesses and brands to source for design work via graphic design contests. From brand identity kits to business cards and logos to full websites and packaging designs, Designhill aims to be the platform bringing graphic designers and brands together.
For such marketplace platforms, demand is a key driver of scale – which may be why Designhill offer a commission-reward of 30% for every sale referred.
Turning satisfied customers to advocates to salespeople
The combination affiliate-referral program helps find new business and rewards customer loyalty for existing clients – a win for all.
80. Snov.io Affiliate Program: Earn up to $4,000!
Snov.io is an email marketing and sales automation platform that supplies its users with a set of tools for cold email outreach. With both web app and Chrome extensions, you can generate leads, build a list of their valid email addresses, and send triggered email campaigns.
Snov.io offers a referral/affiliate program for its set of tools. Since its target audience are email marketing professionals, it’s very likely they’ll know someone else in the business and be able to share. And they have intentionally created a very generous offer:
- Up to 25% commission for every referral
- No limits on the number of referrals or cash earned
- Payout for both one-time and yearly plan
Compared to referral rewards for other enterprise marketing tools, the rewards are relatively high and Snov.io offers a direct cash payout. In our guide to choosing referral incentives, we also recommend cash as the most effective means of incentivising referrals.
- Why Referral Marketing Is Awesome
- An Epic List of Referral Program Examples [You are here!]
- How To Setup Your Referral Program
- How To Promote Your Referral Program
- How To Measure and Improve the ROI on Your Referral Program
- How To Increase Referral Rates
Want a referral program of your own?
This post barely even scratches the surface of referral programs.
Ecommerce stores, countless gyms, yoga classes, banks and other service providers have referral programs.
If you have a great product worthy of referrals, then you should do like Dropbox and add a refer-a-friend feature to your business.
Check out what we do at ReferralCandy. We’d love to get more people talking about you!